Guest post: Don’t take a holiday from biometrics advocacy
27 February 2017 10:59 GMT

By David Dean Menzies 

Here in the US, the election cycle is over and newsrooms around the country are re-allocating reporters back to their normal beats, many of them technology-oriented. Hungry staff at industry trade magazines, television stations, newspapers, and online publications are out there looking for trending stories.

Now is not the time for the biometrics industry to take the holidays off from showcasing the positive impacts of identity technology.

Rather, the holidays provide the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of consumer-oriented biometrics tech as well as facial and fingerprint biometrics being used by government agencies. “Black Friday” is sure to see tens of thousands of dollars spent on iPhones, smartphones, and other mobile devices which incorporate fingerprint biometrics to unlock screens and perform other functions. Purchasers will be reading about the convenience and security biometrics brings to the table, and as their holiday gift recipients eagerly tear off the wrapping paper and gaze upon their fun new communication tool, the person giving the gift will no doubt be espousing the many benefits of pressing a finger against a screen.

By the time each recipient and gift-giver is gushing over his or her biometrics-powered treasures, they may have also experienced the security achieved via government use of biometrics. Specifically, the many security checkpoints at airports and other ports-of-entry equipped with biometric devices that are helping to keep people safe while expediting their travels. 

These tens of thousands of people experiencing the positive aspects of biometrics are primed to become willing advocates and ambassadors for an industry which, according to a never-ending stream of independent reports, is primed for massive growth in the coming years beyond existing markets. In order to do so, they need a nudge from an industry which to this point has either been too busy or too hesitant to take a public stand in support of itself.

That may sound harsh, and I certainly don’t want to denigrate the many efforts of private companies doing admirable outreach in their marketing and PR, nor do I wish to cast aspersion on the numerous conferences, tradeshows, forums and other informative events put together by groups and associations. These efforts continue to provide real value and education, but their focus is within targeted markets to sell products and technology, primarily in the government sector.

Still, without a concerted effort on behalf of the biometrics industry the general public will continue to see a steady stream of misinformation about the technology. Some of this is intentional on the part of individuals with agendas; businesses marketing products addressing purported shortcomings of biometric devices; and privacy groups and other anti-[insert hot-button issue here] organizations looking to drum-up donations and light a fire under their constituencies to serve their long-term interests. 

These efforts and others lead to erroneous or misleading news reports by the aforementioned journalists salivating for controversial subjects to report on. Tossing them juicy morsels like invasion of privacy, spoofing, fraud, and identity theft often leads to splashy headlines that make it harder for manufacturers and vendors to move the industry forward with new innovations and, if left unchecked, can have substantial negative repercussions on industry economics via delayed or cancelled contracts and lost sales.

Like most industries biometrics is decentralized, albeit with a shared interest in cooperating to move things forward. I’ve personally met dozens of industry leaders from private companies, government agencies, and trade associations who would make excellent spokespeople in front of the cameras as well as authors of opinion pieces in high-profile mainstream news outlets. 

So come on, biometrics advocates, we know you’re out there. Take advantage of this opportunity to get the word out, take a stand, and give the industry momentum into 2017 that can’t be stopped, regardless of the opposition.

- David Dean Menzies is a writer, blogger, and public relations consultant with a focus on technology clients, including biometrics. www.daviddeanmenzies.com